By Jim Beard
One of the hottest tickets in the USA—and in the hearts of sports fans everywhere—is Minor League baseball of the Triple-A variety. A training ground for baseball heroes to advance to the Major Leagues, Triple-A has all the heart-stopping excitement and fast-and-furious gameplay that you expect from the big boys.
And now it has the Marvel Super Heroes.
In a jumpin' joint effort between Marvel Comics and Minor League Baseball, a special Marvel comic book has been produced that will only be available at the 30 Minor League parks throughout the U.S. this summer. TRIPLE-A BASEBALL HEROES is a unique comic, filled to the brim with Marvel characters and hard-hitting Triple-A baseball action, and will be given away free with admission on scheduled dates.
Marvel Editor Nicole Boose had a hand in the development of this cool collectible, and set us straight on Marvel's "specialty" comics. "While the Triple-A project is definitely unique, there's nothing new or unusual about 'specialty' comics at Marvel," she clarifies. "It's actually its own division of Marvel, called custom publishing. We do new projects frequently, and in great volume. You won't see them in the direct market, but they're actually all over the place. One was distributed at theaters to people going to see 'Spider-Man 3.' One was distributed through a national office-supply store. Many go to
schools. Many are packaged with video games and DVDs. Each project is unique and
each one is an opportunity to reach more people through comics, which is what I like about it."
TRIPLE-A BASEBALL HEROES, written by Chris Eliopoulos and art by Robert Atkins, paints a wild and crazy day at a Minor League game, attended by none other than the Fantastic Four, Peter Parker, Iron Man and a few surprise guests. Things heat up quickly and one nefarious evildoer creates a situation that leads to a horrible misunderstanding. Chaos ensues. And singing. Really.
"The character choices were a collaborative effort," says Boose. "And as I think Chris
has said, different characters spotlighted different qualities of Triple-A that we wanted to emphasize. Probably most importantly, the Fantastic Four highlight the family aspects of Triple-A baseball. Iron Man because Tony Stark is a businessman, interested in the business potential of working with Triple-A. Peter Parker and Aunt May illustrate how different generations can enjoy games together. Hulk because Bruce Banner made sense in the story, and also because we like to see the Hulk smash stuff!"
Boose explains that the genesis of the project and her editing of it were both easy and natural. "The project started with Triple-A and Mitch Dane, Marvel's Eastern Sales Director. I became the editor because I generally edit all of the custom comics that Marvel publishes—unless they're reprints, in which case they're edited by the excellent Jeff Youngquist.
"I knew Chris Eliopoulos was interested in baseball, and, as a cartoonist, he knows how to be concise while appealing to a wide audience. And he hit it out of the park, so to speak."
Forgiving her that horrible pun, we asked Boose is she herself, being the editor of a book called TRIPLE-A BASEBALL HEROES, was a baseball fan. "I'm actually not a sports fan at all!" she admits. "But even so, like anyone else I do get caught up in the spirit of the game, given the chance. And I've always had a good impression of minor league baseball because it does represent the true spirit of sports, without strong commercial overtones or high pricing. So I was very pleased to be able to support that through this project."
In addition to the regular cover available at 27 of the parks, fan-favorite painter John Watson has upped the score on this special event by working up three variant covers for the comic that are only available in Buffalo, Durham and Memphis. And all the covers are embossed with each team's logo for their particular city. Check your local Triple-A ballpark for dates and availability.
Boose was also adamant to point out that TRIPLE-A BASEBALL HEROES and the individual hometown events that surround it are not just for kids. "This is for everyone. It was important to make it fun and lighthearted to keep kids interested, but also remind adults that comics can be enjoyable and informative."
So, Marvel fans, if you like colorful heroes, tense action, and the Thing dressed up like a giant hot dog with your Minor League baseball, then this is the comic for you. Take yourself out to the ballgame and score yourself a copy.